By Deb A.Drawn and Quarterly
Image courtesy of www.canadianart.ca
If you find that you, like the average American adult of 2009, spend over eight hours a day looking at some sort of screen, it may be time for you to close your laptop, drop your smartphone into a deep pocket, fold your eBook reader into its case, and get to a bookstore. Chances are there's a good one near you. There are certainly some good ones near us.
Montreal, Canada: Librairie Drawn & Quarterly Bookstore
Visiting Librairie D + Q in Montreal's Mile End neighbourhood is like walking into a tiny, less edible (but equally magical) version of Willy Wonka's chocolate factory. It's hard to know where to look first when everything is so enticing. Librairie D + Q is a perfect place to discover something you always thought looked interesting, but never really ventured into: from local zines to French comics to art books to a beautiful print of that classic novel you've always been meaning to read, everything is here, waiting patiently to be picked up and tucked under an arm. This is a place where broadening one's horizons is irresistible. And for those who are already deep into an artistic, creative scene, you will find that obscure magazine here.
Dussmann's English Bookshop
Berlin, Germany: Dussmann das KulturKaufhaus
Dussmann is a book paradise for Berliners, both German- and English-speaking. Literally translated, it is a department store for culture, and its event programme includes everything from a Lang Lang concert to a talk with Anton Corbijn. Tourists gather at the front window to collect books on Berlin; parents push strollers toward a rainbow of children's books and a play corner; globetrotters lounge in sofas on the third floor, thumbing through mounds of travel guides. It is difficult to not find a book here. For the expats, a two-storey, tartaned, standalone shop at the back offers an impressive array of English books. There is also a cafe facing a vertical garden for all those who spend so many hours lingering over books that they can no longer ignore their hunger.
El Ateneo Grand Splendid
Buenos Aires, Argentina: El Ateneo Grand Splendid
There are several branches of the 101-year-old publishing house El Ateneo, but the store located in the Grand Splendid, an old renovated theatre, is by far the most breathtaking. Bibilophiles who lack a strong grasp of Spanish will easily find it in their hearts to overlook the relatively sparse selection of English books and instead simply marvel in their surroundings: swooping lines, stately columns, ceiling frescos, crimson curtains and elegant lighting provide a magnificent home for the shelves and shelves of books that have replaced what was surely once a vision of velvet seats. Besides, there can be no better way to brush up on one's Spanish than snuggled into a theatre box with a dictionary and a copy of Jorge Luis Borges's Ficciones.
Courtesy of Brooklyn Botanic Garden
By Deb A.
A few weeks ago our Editor-In-Chief looked at how art flourished after Hurricane Sandy: artists turned their gaze anew toward the notion of home, the process of rebuilding, and the potential to create beauty from devastation. Officials at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden (BBG) had their fingers on the city's pulse when they commissioned Roderick Romero to use the branches and twigs of the trees felled by Hurricane Sandy for a new sculpture called "Sandy Remix".
Romero makes nests. Nests big enough for humans. He's not the only artist to do so; Marina Abramović and Gareth Wynne Fitzpatrick have brought their own versions of the fractal home to life, too. Patrick Dougherty, whose nests dot the world map from Australia to Korea to Italy to the United States, is often recognised as the master of the genre. He created "Natural History", the BBG's predecessor to "Sandy Remix"; some pieces of Dougherty's nest, along with wood from Tropical Storm Irene, went into the current installation.
The nest is a powerful symbol of home. Its seemingly chaotic but ultimately orderly flow resonates with us on a biological level, invoking a sensation of protection and safety. It is a place where life begins. It is a refuge. And yet, it is impermanent: a nest is made to be left behind. Consisting of materials plucked from local resources, it eventually decays or is reused in a tidy exercise in sustainability. And so, the cycle of building and rebuilding finds its own artistic home in the nest.
By Deb A.Yayoi Kusama, Dots Obsession (1998)
This week we pay tribute to three artists who have made us think about polka dots.
The only place to begin is with Yayoi Kusama, a Japanese avant-garde artist who has called herself the High Priestess of Polka Dots. Derived from the hallucinations she has experienced since her childhood, polka dots spill obsessively in 'infinity nets' over Kusama's paintings, sculptures, drawings, installations and fashion. Her vibrant dots have been showcased around the world, from the Tate Modern in London to the National Museum of Modern Art in Tokyo, and have even found their way onto bookshelves in the form of her exquisite illustrations for the Lewis Carroll classic, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland.
"Polka dots are a way to infinity." –Yayoi Kusama
Damien Hirst, Benzyloxyurea (2011)
Damien Hirst's 1,365 spot paintings are, unlike Kusama's fanciful works, an industrial, commercial approach to art. Perfect bright dots gleam in militant succession; the gaps between the dots are generally the same size as the spots themselves. Hirst made only the first few spot paintings himself before passing the task on to assistants, who are instructed to never use the same colour twice in one piece.
Hirst is a controversial figure who is as much (and some would argue more) an entrepreneur as an artist – his conceptual art, which includes a dead shark in a case and a diamond-encrusted skull, has sold for millions. Love him or hate him, he's probably managed to get you to... we'll avoid the obvious pun. Currently in the works: a painting with one million spots.
Hervé Tullet, Press Here (2010)
Hervé Tullet's works don't hang in museums and tend to sell for under $20; he is an author and illustrator of children's books. His 2010 book, Un Livre (Press Here) begins with just one yellow dot and an instruction to 'press here'. Before long, readers of any age are hooked, making dots appear, change colours, grow and shuffle around the page with claps, shakes, and the firm press of a thumb. His audience may be slightly less sophisticated than gallery visitors, but one is never too young to fall in love with polka dots.
By Deb A.
The question of 'home' tends to be directed toward poets, not poems. The short preface of the Norton Anthology of Modern Poetry makes sure to note that the history of verse in England must include Americans such as Ezra Pound and T.S. Eliot (the latter a naturalised British citizen). The PEN World Voices Festival of International Literature recently enlisted some of New York City's yellow taxi drivers to write poetry firmly rooted in their iconic status (you can listen to the results here). Leonard Cohen is unthinkable without Montreal. Derek Walcott is practically synonymous with the Caribbean.
Being at home, being in exile, finding a spiritual home, reconnecting with one's actual home, bearing witness. A poet moves from here to there; her work evolves accordingly. Doctorates are written.
But where do poems live?
Today the poesiefestival asked, 'Where is poetry?' The answer the colloquium was searching for won't be found in a greeting card; neither 'the smile of a child' nor 'a sunset on the beach' could fit the bill. Rather, the question was a practical one: where and how can a database of poetry be created that provides the user with "more effective ways of finding poetry"? In short: where can all poetry − and lovers of poetry − find a home?
By Ariana L.
Superstorms have a transformative power. They came into our vocabulary unexpectedly, a heavy loaded term to encapsulate the amplified nature of their destruction. In the aftermath, they leave us forever changed, forced to rebuild what was lost to the best of our abilities. But what of their impact on our creative selves?
Last autumn, Hurricane Sandy hit the Tri-State area (New York, New Jersey & Connecticut) with unprecedented vengeance. New York City, an epicenter of the Arts, suffered incredible damage never before seen from a natural disaster. Galleries were flooded to the rafters, studios and cultural centers irreparably destroyed and iconic works of art deluged to the point of ruination. Countless artists and creators lost everything.
As the waters receded, spaces where people had once gathered to communicate and to exchange ideas, to proclaim their unique artistic expression by devoting their lives to their craft, were gone. In their places, derelict and unfit structures were unveiled, filled with water-logged canvases, half-erased by the fury of the hurricane. There would be no consolation in insurance claims, no justice seen after so much was cruelly taken away in a superstorm of this magnitude. New York City mourned the fruits of its own creativity.
Then something incredible happened. The irrepressible power and resiliency of Art came to the fore: it had found a new means of expression in its own decimation. The ability to adapt to its surroundings, to represent a kind of pathetic fallacy while chronicling the human journey --this was the unparalleled sense of historicity coursing through its veins.
What was once deemed too damaged to exhibit became the focal points of exhibition. The notion of sustainability in Art and the significance of its cultural impact opened new channels of discourse. Mother Nature had dictated new boundaries of modality and artists answered her call.
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